Monday, November 11, 2013

The best of enemies, through Moroccan eyes

Poster for Free Men, a film about Jews saved by Muslims in wartime France

"One could be an Arab Jew until the 1960s," opines an interviewee in this Jeune Afrique article, but the Arab-Israeli conflict has made such an identity impossible. This interesting piece explores the pressures against 'normalisation' with Israel in the Maghreb, while the Moroccan Crown is busy restoring the country's Jewish heritage. Jews and Arabs are 'the best of enemies'(with thanks: Sylvia):
 On September 30, Yad Vashem announced that an Egyptian doctor had joined the list of Righteous Among the Nations. Mohamed Helmy and his German wife, Frieda Szturmann, were honored posthumously for saving a Jewish family from deportation in 1941 in Berlin. A first for an Arab, even if other files are being processed by Yad Vashem, including that of Kaddour Benghabrit,  rector of the Mosque of Paris under the Occupation, about which a film (Free Men, Ferroukhi , 2011) and a book (The Yellow Star and Crescent, Mohammed A├»ssaoui, 2012) have recently been made.  

A few weeks after Yad Vashem's announcement, the members of the family of Mohamed Helmy, who died in 1982, said they refused to honor the Israeli institution. "If another country had honored Helmy, we would have been honored. He treated his patients regardless of nationality, race or religion," said Mervat Hassan, a distant descendant. The memorial's spokesman  regretted "that the political views seem to overshadow human considerations, hoping that they will eventually prevail."
The case speaks for itself. In relations between Jews and Muslims, it seems that the mere mention 'of Israel undermines any attempt at settlement. Even Morocco, a country in North Africa had the largest Jewish community in the aftermath of World War II (250,000 in 1947, a total of 8 million inhabitants), is embarrassed by the relationship with the Hebrew state. Recently, two bills have landed on the table of the House of Representatives to in almost identical terms to "criminalize normalization with the Israeli entity."

Read article in full (French)


Anonymous said...

My family and I were saved by our Arab bawab (hall porter)when a mad mass of men come into our building looking for YAHOUD.
Nasser was the first to fill their minds with hatred.May he turn over in his tomb!

Anonymous said...

Sultana: no doubt Nasser was inspired by Hassan Al Bana's scrawlings for the Muslim Brotherhood.